Our dear friend Dr PC Thomas, founder of the Good Shepherd International School, Ooty is no longer with us. Here is my message to his daughter Julie Pradeesh. We are deeply saddened by his passing. May his soul rest in peace.
I spoke to your mother this morning to convey my heartfelt condolences on the passing of your Dad, our dear Dr. Thomas. It is difficult to believe he is no more with us. His benign and kindly, and yet so dynamic presence left such an indelible impact on all of us who knew him. Visiting GSIS was always such an invigorating and enlightening experience because we had a close-up view of his wise and visionary leadership. He was kindness personified to the South Asian Symphony Foundation and our young musicians. We will never forget his generous and giving spirit. I grieve with you and your family. My husband sends his sincere condolences too.
In Loving Memory by Arson Fahim, Kabul
Less than ten years ago, I would never have imagined this journey that music has taken me on. It has been a journey with ups and downs; with everything from joy and love, to pain and tears. There have been countless times where I’ve almost convinced myself to give up on this journey, to give up music. However, I’ve never managed to keep myself away from music for too long. It’s somehow always pulled me back. On the other hand, there have been certain milestones that were worth it all. Like the first time I performed in a concert, or the first time I played a Chopin Nocturne.
One of these milestones came in 2018 – when three students from the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (including myself) and our founder and director, Dr. Ahmad Sarmast, were invited to India for a week by the South Asian Symphony Foundation. This would be my first time performing outside Afghanistan and my first time on a plane! I was so excited that I was not able to sleep the night before our departure. This week would be one that I shall never forget.
Throughout the journey I wondered about where I was headed as I looked out of the plane window and admired the beauty of our vast yet small planet. When we reached the Good Shepherd International School in Ooty, I was astonished by everything, from the huge and beautiful campus surrounded by green mountains, to the weather.
Over the week, I had the fortune to meet musicians from all over South Asia, to get to know the incredible students at the school, to make music with them and learn from them. I also had the privilege to get to know some of the faculty at the school, and meet the founder and principal, Dr. P. C. Thomas. As I met more and more students of the GSIS, I was impressed by their knowledge, their personalities, their hard work and passion for what they wanted to achieve. Dr. Thomas had created this incredible place that had all the facilities one could think of and amazing faculty that would help students become what they aspired to become.
The highlight of the week was definitely the day before we left. We had a concert where guest artists and students came together to perform. I was lucky enough to get to perform a couple of solo piano pieces that I had composed. At the end of the concert something very unexpected happened that would change the trajectory of my life. As Dr. Thomas came on stage for the closing remarks, he also invited me on stage and announced that he would sponsor my university education! The only word I’ve been able to find to describe that moment and how I felt is “surreal”.
Sadly, Dr. Thomas is no longer with us but I am certain that his memories will be cherished in the hearts of everyone who crossed paths with him, and in the hearts of all the students he helped shape into the people they are today. I am grateful and blessed to have met him and to have been trusted by him. He gave me something I really needed – confidence and hope. I like to think that Dr. Thomas saw something in me. I don’t know what it was, but I hope that I live up to his expectations.
I send my deepest condolences to everyone at SASF, to the students, faculty and staff of GSIS and to his family. May he rest in peace and may his loving memories bring us comfort.
Arson Fahim is a pianist, composer and conductor born in 2000. Though he is Afghan, he grew up as a refugee in Pakistan. Due to financial struggles in the family, he lived in an orphanage. The Afghan Child Education and Care Organisation was able to obtain a scholarship for him to study at the Beaconhouse School System until the 6th grade. He and his family then returned to Kabul, where he began to fulfil his dream of learning to play the piano. He became a student at the Afghan National Institute for Music (ANIM) where he has been a student for 9 years. Fahim also conducts the Afghan National Symphony Orchestra and has composed works for piano, voice and orchestra, which have been performed internationally. He was a featured speaker at the South Asian Symphony Orchestra – Chiragh’s Peace Notes concert in October 2019.